Appointing a person to care for minor children of a parent who is unable to do so, either due to illness or incapacitation, is well-established legally, as well as socially. However, the circumstances under which a guardian is appointed and the manner of a guardian’s appointment have evolved over the years. As a result, today’s legal statutes regarding guardianships also have become more nuanced and tend to vary depending on the scenario.
For instance, the traditional notion of a guardian involved a transfer of custody of the child from the parent or parents to another person, who was chosen either by the parents or appointed by a court of law. Today, with many single parents raising children alone, the appointment of a guardian depends on whether the other parent is still living and, if so, involved in raising the child. Again, the choice of a guardian is also dependent on what is best for the child. In Arkansas, a child aged 14 or older can seek a change of guardianship through a legal petition.
A relatively recent introduction to Arkansas guardianship law is the idea of standby guardianship, wherein a parent can continue in that capacity and yet appoint someone to care for the child over the long-term in a situation where the parent is terminally ill. Prior to this concept, the parent could name such a person in his or her will, but this choice could be debated during probate. A standby guardianship allows the parent a greater degree of control regarding this decision and also ensures that arrangements are in place prior to the parent’s death.
Legally, other circumstances, apart from raising children, may require a guardian. Per Arkansas law, a court can appoint guardians for individuals who are either incapacitated or are being held in another country. In both these cases, there must be sufficient evidence to prove that a guardian is indeed necessary. Even in these types of cases, the role of a guardian is to stand in for the person, given his or her inability to act on his or her own behalf.
Source: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, “A Survey of State Guardianship Statutes: One Concept, Many Applications,” accessed Oct. 24, 2014